NEWBURGH, NY, June 27, 2016 — The Greater Newburgh Symphony Orchestra has named Russell Ger its Music Director following a two-year search that involved more than 100 candidates. Ger (pronounced “Grrrr”) is the charismatic Australian maestro who wowed the audience and reviewers with “From Russia With Love” on June 11. He is only the GNSO’s second Music Director, succeeding Dr. Woomyung Choe, who founded the orchestra in 1995 and led it for 20 years.
Music lovers in the Hudson River Valley will not have to wait long to hear Ger’s artistry again at a free outdoor concert on Saturday, July 30 at 4:00 pm in Newburgh’s Downing Park. Maestro Ger will lead the orchestra on a “Whirlwind Tour of Europe,” featuring composers from eight European countries, including the Czech Republic, Finland, Spain, France, England, Hungary, Austria and Russia, in that order. It also offers the much-anticipated appearance of the Mini-Maestros — the “kiddie conductors” — who will stride to the podium and take turns in leading John Phillip Sousa’s “Washington Post March.” The program will come to a rousing finale with Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.”
Mr. Ger, who is based in New York City, has a repertoire that spans orchestral, operatic and choral music, which he has conducted across North America and in his native country. One of his career highlights came when he conducted the finale from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the world-renowned Sydney Opera House. More recently, his leadership of the GNSO during its June 11 concert drew standing ovations from the audience after every selection.
The Newburgh Symphony began its search for Dr. Choe’s successor almost two years ago, receiving more than 100 applications for the position. A Search Committee led by Orchestra Manager and Board member Greg Phillips finally narrowed the field to four after hearing eight finalists perform in person or on videotape. Then the four maestros — Mr. Ger, David Bernard, Harvey Felder and Michael Avagliano — each led the orchestra in a major 2015/16 season concert that was evaluated both by GNSO musicians and members of the audience (an average of 185 per concert). GNSO Board members had that data, plus input from Mr. Phillips’ Search Committee and a special Conductor Interview Committee, when they made their decision last week.
“The decision was incredibly difficult,” Mr. Phillips said, “because all four candidates were terrific people who gave their all for the greater Newburgh community.” GNSO President John Bliss said, “the Search Committee did a fantastic job and we owe them all a debt of gratitude.” Its members were Noreen Davis, Silvia Padegs Grendze, Lynn Cunningham, Julie Donato, William Stevens, Dan Chester, Lou Pappas, Joel Evans, Bruce Jackson and Erich Tusch, as well as Mr. Phillips.
The Greater Newburgh Symphony Orchestra is one of the leading cultural institutions of the Hudson River Valley. It was founded in 1995 by Dr. Woomyung Choe and its first president, George Handler, who was followed as president after 10 years by the late Fred McCurdy. In addition to its regular concerts, the Orchestra annually visits a local high school where its professional musicians — who come from throughout the Valley — play “Side-by-Side” in a formal concert with student musicians.